Tommy Edman’s Success May Be Here to Stay
Tommy Edman was a name I had only heard a few times in passing prior to this season, but he had a great first month of the season and his hot start has a good chance of continuing.
One of the surprises of the first month for me is Tommy Edman. Edman, the second basemen for the St. Louis Cardinals, had a very solid year last year. He even brought home a gold glove at the end of the year. His name, however, was largely overshadowed by the likes of Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt, and the breakout year of Tyler O’Neill. Let’s take a look at where Edman stood coming into this year:
It is somewhat surprising Edman wasn’t a part of more discussions coming into this year. He batted lead-off for most of last year on a Cardinal’s team that made the playoffs. He had a year that would not be considered a great offensive year thoughout the league, but he certainly showed sparks of potential. Good contact skills allowed him to rank at the 94th percentile in Whiff% and 92nd percentile in K%. His batting average ended at only a .262, brought down by a lower-than-average BABIP. Like many players that don’t swing and miss often, his power numbers were pretty low. Edman’s average exit velocity ended at only the 20th percentile. This lack of consistent exit velocity seemed to be Edman’s biggest problem, but he definitely showed the ability to hit the ball hard. His max exit velocity actually ranked 49th in the league, ahead of guys like Jose Ramirez and his teammate Paul Goldschmidt. Edman also ended the year with the second most doubles in Major League Baseball.
While Edman’s hitting was showing great potential here and there, he made his impact known in other areas. In his 159 games, he totaled 30 stolen bases. He also proved to be the best defensive second baseman according to Statcast Outs Above Average and earned his first Gold Glove Award. With an OPS+ of 91 (100 is league average), he still managed 3.7 WAR. A player with this WAR is often considered a good player approaching All-Star level (4–5 WAR). So, if Tommy Edman isn’t too far from All-Star level with slightly below-average hitting, how productive could he be if he became an above average hitter?
Through the first month of the baseball season, we have gotten a glimpse of what that Tommy Edman would look like. Edman currently has a 155 OPS+ which I don’t expect him to maintain for the whole year, but I think an OPS+ between 120 and 130 is quite possible for the season. This moves him from the good player category to the All-Star level, if not higher.
Tommy Edman may have begun this season as a largely overlooked player, but he was in a good position to break out. He was already providing a lot of value in the areas that are less discussed among fans and his hitting had shown flashes of being very good.
Edman’s age may be another important source of his breakout so far this season. Edman turns 27 years old today (May 9, 2022), an age largely considered to be the beginning of a player’s prime. This is hardly a rule. Some player’s experience their prime very early on and others have a sudden performance-boost toward the end of their career. Yet, many people within baseball project a player to have their best season at age 27 or in the 3 to 5 seasons after. Sometime around age 27, players often become the most complete baseball player they will be. This can mean better decision-making, more speed, or more consistent power-production. Edman has shown some improvement in each of these areas so far this season. He only has 3 home runs so far, but that puts him on pace for 21 over the 641 at-bats he got last season. He is also walking significantly more than last year. Additionally, he is using his speed more effectively. Last year, he stole 30 bases and was only caught 5 times. So far this season, he is on pace to steal 10 more bases at about the same success rate.
Tommy Edman has had a very successful 2022 season so far and it is unlikely that he will continue producing at his current pace. Yet, his previous seasons have shown that he could very well be All-Star caliber for the entirety of the 2022 season. On a team like the Cardinals, where he is surrounded by players with great offensive and defensive prowess, the emergence of Tommy Edman could be key in their quest to take home the World Series Trophy.